Skin Cancer

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Melanoma kills more than twice as many men as women in Australia, and is the third most common cancer in men (after prostate and bowel cancer).

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with two out of three Australians diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. The good news is you can cut your risk of skin cancer by using good sun protection. It’s never too late for skin cancer prevention, whether you’re six months of 60 years old.

 

Types of skin cancer 

The sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main cause of skin cancer.  There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma is the most common and least dangerous form of skin cancer.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is less common but more dangerous than basal cell carcinoma.
  • Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and the least common. Melanoma kills more than twice as many men as women in Australia, and is the third most common cancer in men (after prostate and bowel cancer). 

 

Am I at risk?

Anyone can develop skin cancer, regardless of their skin colour or general health. However, the risk is higher for people who:

 

What are the symptoms?

Most skin cancer can be successfully treated if it is found early. But without treatment, skin cancer can be deadly.

Get to know your skin and what looks normal for you to help you find changes earlier. Check all of your skin, not just sun-exposed areas. If you notice anything unusual, including any change in shape, colour or size of a spot, or a new spot, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

Checking your skin regularly is also important if you have naturally dark skin. Although your risk of melanoma is lower, it is more likely to be found at a later, more dangerous stage than a person with lighter skin.

 

What can I do to reduce my risk? 

UV radiation isn’t like the sun’s light or heat, which we can see and feel. That means we usually don’t notice the damage until it’s too late. The UV level can be as high on a cold or cloudy day as it is when it is a scorching hot day.

The free SunSmart app tells you when sun protection is recommended for your location and shows current UV levels. During the day’s sun protection times, use all five SunSmart steps for the best level of protection:

  • Slip on sun-protective clothing
  • Slop on SPF30 or higher, board-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outdoors and re-apply every two hours
  • Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on sunglasses

 

For more information:

Male person

David’s neighbour (age 42) has been extra conscious about sun protection after losing a friend to skin cancer a few years ago. He also looks after himself by exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet.